Whether you are a lawyer, public relations professional or financial advisor, you need to make sure that your clients don’t equate your service with purchasing a cola or snack from a vending machine. “Vending machine” relationships are transaction-based: You get exactly what you want–nothing more. It’s perhaps momentarily satisfying (like that bag of potato chips) but not healthy long term.

Here are three tips to avoid “vending machine” client service:

  1. Be curious. Rather than rush to respond, allow (or train) your brain to wonder about the larger situation that prompted your client to call with his or her request. Ask questions to learn more about the problem and the larger context. You may discover that the solution the client is seeking is, in fact, not the best solution to their real problem.
  2. Don’t limit your thinking. There may be a typical range of solutions, but in real life, your client doesn’t need to pick “E3″ or “C5″ in the vending machine. Given your unique expertise and background–and as an advisor to your client–you are likely to recommend a less-generic solution.
  3. Add meaningful value. Focus on the ways in which you can solve the client’s particular problem of the moment and–with that solution–contribute to the client’s larger success.

Of course, there are some problems that call for that simple, straightforward solution. But the really good advisors consider all the possibilities.

So ask yourself: Do I have healthy, growing client relationships or have I lapsed into the role of a client service “vending machine,” selling pre-packaged, generic solutions?

For more on client service, see:

Beryl Loeb is founder of the Loeb Group, which works with business executives, professional service firms, PR, advertising and digital web marketing agencies looking to accelerate their growth and transform their business through targeted skill-building. For more information, go to http://www.theloebgroup.com.